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Nvidia GTX 980 tested: SLI, 4K, and single-GPU benchmarks and impressions

The Nvidia GTX 980 is here—as in, Nvidia has announced it, you'll be able to buy one soon, and it's also physically here in the PC Gamer offices. I've been playing games on the GTX 980 and benchmarking the card with the help of Maximum PC. We've put our cards together to test dual-GPU SLI performance and thrown the 980s up against a 4K monitor to see how they compare to the GTX 780 Ti, Radeon R9 290X, and other top-of-the-line graphics cards.

The big question: is the Nvidia GTX 980 worth its $550 / £429 price tag? According to our benchmarks, absolutely.

First: the basic specs for both 900 series cards compared to some older Nvidia GPUs.

Specs

GTX 680

GTX 780

GTX 780 Ti

GTX 980

GTX 970

CUDA cores

1536

2304

2880

2048

1664

Base clock

1006 MHz

863 MHz

876

1126 MHz

1050 MHz

Boost clock

1058 MHz

900 MHz

928

1216 MHz

1178 MHz

Texture units

192

128

192

128

104

Texture fill rate

128.8 billion /s

160.5 billion /s

196.2 billion /s

144 billion /s

109 billion /s

Single precision

1 teraflop

4 teraflops

5 teraflops

5 teraflops

4 teraflops

Memory config

2GB 256-bit GDDR5

3GB 384-bit GDDR5

3GB 384-bit GDDR5

4GB 256-bit GDDR5

4GB 256-bit GDDR5

Memory speed

6.0 Gbps

6.0 Gbps

7.0 Gbps

7.0 Gbps

7.0 Gbps

TDP

195W

250W

250W

195W

145W

Power connectors

2 x 6-pin

1 x 6-pin, 1x 8-pin

1 x 6-pin, 1x 8-pin

2 x 6-pin

2 x 6-pin

Outputs

DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI, 2x dual-link DVI

DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI, 2x dual-link DVI

DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI, 2x dual-link DVI

3x DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 2.0, dual-link DVI

3x DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 2.0, dual-link DVI

Launch price

$500

$650

$700

$550

$330

If you don't speak GPU specs, there are a few noteworthy numbers to hone in on above. The 900 series cards have notably higher clock speeds than the GTX 780, and each CUDA core is 40% more efficient, which makes up for the smaller number of cores. The new Maxwell architecture is also dramatically more power efficient than Kepler—the 980 can deliver 30 gigaflops per watt, versus just 15 gigaflops per watt for the 680 and 780. That's allowed Nvidia to bring the card's thermal design point down to 195 watts, and to once again run off two 6-pin connectors.

Some more information from Nvidia: Maxwell is built to work especially well at higher resolutions like 1600p and 4K. Memory architecture improvements and new color compression help Maxwell perform dramatically better than older cards when pushing more pixels. Nvidia's new MFAA is also lower impact than MSAA, which helps deliver playable framerates at 4K (though, at 4K pixel density, you may find you don't even care about AA at all).

That all sounds great, but do these cards perform as well in the wild as Nvidia claims? In a word: yes.

Jump over to the next page for a heap of benchmarks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As hardware editor, Wes spends slightly more time building computers than he does breaking them. Deep in his heart he believes he loves Star Wars even more than Samuel Roberts and Chris Thursten, but is too scared to tell them.
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